It’s a bit like an addiction. You’ve got to
make something, you have to do something. It’s borderline obsession. And every bike we build is my favorite bike at
the time, and as soon as it’s done I want to build another one. Sven Cycles is something I’ve been thinking about ever since I started cycling in my late teens. We want bikes that, ultimately, you’ll really
enjoy riding. There’s never a bike that’s the same. There’s always a slight change. And as we build them individually as well, they have the marks
of a bike that’s built by hand. Most people I know who cycle have an idea
of their dream bicycle. And it may be an evolving idea you’ve had in your head. We’ve worked
with a lot of people that have come to us with sketches, scrapbooks and it’s really, really
nice to build something that’s just one-off and unique. I think a lot of people see a bicycle as two wheels and a frame in the middle. There are a lot of subtle changes and nuances in design which can change the riding characteristics quite dramatically. I’m a really big fan of modernist architecture and the simplicity of a modernist building is really hard to achieve. And with some of our bikes, they may look very simple but I think people should not underestimate the time and effort that goes in to designing a product. Tubing is key to a bike’s feel and ride. Reynolds tubing has been in my life ever
since I can remember. Growing up, I could never afford a frame manufactured with their tubing. We can now put a badge on our bike saying, “Manufactured with Reynolds”, which is the sort of thing, as a kid, I just wouldn’t have believed was going to happen. Every part of the bike has a specific tube. It’s not universal.
The first thing we do is get the tubes out check their correct, check the wall thicknesses,
sand the edges, make sure it’s all really clean because if it’s not clean the tubes
won’t join together correctly. We build in steel because I still believe
it’s one of the best materials to use. It’s been used in bikes since the late 1800s, and they’re still using it now for a very good reason. It’s a flexibility we could remove a tube,
replace a tube, repaint the bike and you wouldn’t know it was damaged. I just like working with it, it’s very sculptural. This isn’t aerospace precision engineering.
It’s a steel ruler and a marker. So when we’re cutting the tubes it’s within a mil or two. But what we’re trying to do is take the best
from bicycle building in the past and add a little bit of modern flair to it. There’s various techniques for building bicycles.
We do a thing called fillet brazing, where you connect the pipe together. We use a bronze
rod and a flame, we heat the tubes up to the same temperature and we fill the joint with
bronze and it gives a very sort of fluid lovely, quite sculptural feel. You’ve just got to practice. You’ve got to be able to judge material temperatures, you got to just look at it and you just get a feel for it. It’s the stage where your tubes start to look a bit like a bicycle. My father’s a jeweller. He would make very pretty things, which are lovely but for me they don’t really have any function. What
I love about bicycles is you can start on Monday with a box of tubes and you can be riding it by the weekend. And it can last you for the rest of your life. Outside of the frame or forks, the other most
important part is the wheels and tires. When you build the wheel you have to lace them. So there’s little holes going all the way around the rim, you poke the spoke through. We build all our wheels by hand here because a machine can’t get 30 years’ worth of wheel-building experience. Color is very personal. With any of our bikes, you can have them painted whatever color you want. We’ve matched one to a teapot so we can get that scanned and we can match that, or someone’s favourite item of clothing. I like to let the bike sit for four or five
days minimum just so the paint can have time to cure a little bit, and then we assemble it. We get out all the new components and it’s a case of putting them together. Some bikes you can assemble in three hours, some would take three days. We’ve built bikes that cost in the ten thousand pound plus mark. Some people, they’re saving up, and this is their bike and they’re going to own it for the rest of their life so we just want to
make sure we get the right thing. I think the bike for me was the first time
I had some freedom. So as soon as I had one I was off. A lot of people still get that thrill when they were a kid blasting down a hill wind going through their hair. It’s fun. Everyone has their favorite jacket or something that just makes them feel good. If you’ve got a bike that fits well you actually feel part of it. Building bicycles as a creative outlet is fantastic. It’s not something you do because you’re going
to get a big pay check at the end of the day. You do it because you have a passion for it.